By Wole Adedeji, Ilorin
Cousin to the forrmer Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; Ope Saraki, has been re-arraigned in court over charges of abuse of office and wrong collection of N11,180,000.00 public fund.
He had been facing trial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, since May 13, 2015 before Hon. Justice A. O Faji of the Federal High Court, sitting in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.
The case had suffered setbacks ever since because of incessant transfer of judges of the court, until the matter came up again before Justice Mohamned Sanni, who just resumed on the case at the same court.
Ope Saraki, who was Senior Special Assistant, SSA, on Millenium Development Goals, MDGs, to Bukola Saraki, when he was governor of Kwara State, was said to have collected the money; N11,180,000.00 from one Kunle Adimula, an amount that exceeded what an individual could collect at a time from public fund.
The Ilorin Zonal Office of the EFCC, which dragged Saraki to court in its charges, said he committed an offence contrary to Section 1(a) and 16(1) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.
Similarly, another aide of the former Senate President, Olatunji Moronfoye, also a Special Assistant, SA, on MDGs was charged for allegedly committing a procurement fraud by means of unlawful influence in the award of two contracts.
The contracts were the renovation of Ijagbo Primary Health Centre in Oyun Local Government Area and supply of medical equipments to two hospitals in Kwara State.
His alleged offence was said to contravene Section 58(4) and punishable under Section 58(5)(a) and (b) of the Public Procurement Act 2007.
The two accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them in court.
Counsel to EFCC, Sesan Ola, in his reaction to the defendants’ pleas urged the court to fix a date for trial and remand them in the custody of the Nigeria Correctional Centre pending the trial.
However, Sulyman Abaya and Joshua Olatoke, SAN, respectively, who were counsel presenting Ope Saraki and Olatunji Moronfoye, urged the court to allow their clients continue with the earlier terms and conditions of the bail granted them by the court.
The trial judge, Justice Sani, after listening to the submissions by the both counsel admitted them to bails on the terms earlier granted by the first trial judge, having found them not to have breached the terms.
The judge therefore adjourned the case to February 16, 2022 for commencement of trial for Ope Saraki and February 22, 2022 for Olatunji Moronfoye.